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Shortage of drinking fountains in our playgrounds

Press Release – University of Otago
New research has found that only a fifth (20 per cent) of childrens’ playgrounds in the lower North Island had drinking fountains (11 out of 54 playgrounds).

The University of Otago, Wellington study, published today in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that only one of 17 Council areas in the study had drinking fountains that worked in all the playgrounds sampled in their area. Eight of the Council areas had no fountains at all in any of the playgrounds sampled.

The researchers found that the fountain quality varied greatly. Three fountains had discolouration on the metal surround (for example, from biofilm) within 1 centimetre of the nozzle of the fountain.

The design of some fountains meant that it would be difficult to clean around the nozzle, and this may increase the likelihood of discolouration.

Some fountains did not properly collect the waste water from the drinking nozzles. Some also did not have suitable surfaces for the water to drain away, resulting in soft, wet or muddy ground around the fountain.

“We even found a fountain with grass growing out of the drainage sink part,” says one of the study authors, Professor Nick Wilson of the University of Otago, Wellington.

“In an era of climate change with increased risk of heat waves, drinking water in public places will be an increasingly important civic investment. Ideally, Government should consider regulations that require at least one drinking water fountain in all NZ playgrounds and parks, especially those with sports fields,” says Professor Wilson.

The study authors say that good access to drinking water in outdoor public places is also becoming recognised internationally as a health issue, due to the need to provide healthy options in contrast to sugary drinks, which contribute to obesity and rotten teeth.

The study follows another published last year which found only 6 per cent of Wellington City playgrounds had drinking fountains. Link to previous study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29044895.

This was similar to the six per cent figure for drinking fountains in all of Auckland City’s parks – also reported last year. Link to media report.

Full study: Thomson G, Wilson N. Playground drinking fountains in 17 local government areas: survey methods and results. NZ Medical Journal, 2nd February 2018

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